Why Your Marketing Is Failing (7 Reasons)

a young CMO is frustrated that marketing is failing and puts his hands on his face.

Everyone is looking for a silver bullet for their marketing, especially when it comes to digital and online. That one elusive thing or concept or tactic that will turn the tide towards new customers, new revenue, and sustained growth. So many business leaders feel their marketing is failing because it’s a matter of time. That they are “thiiiis close” to cracking the code.

They aren’t.

You see, there isn’t just one thing that works in a vacuum – or that causes marketing to fail. There isn’t a single tactic that consistently produces without the support of other platforms, channels and content. Think about it this way…will a killer ad concept work if:

  • The campaigns aren’t built and budgeted correctly?
  • There’s no tracking, analytics and reporting?
  • There’s no process for new customers or leads to be nurtured once they convert?
  • There isn’t a “great experience” that awaits prospects after engaging with your killer ad?
  • Only one or limited channels are used to deliver the ad to your best prospects?
  • There isn’t a method to scaled up and maximize this creative?

All of the above has to work together and be in place for a single ad concept to really work. It’s complex to say the least. However, we see some common trends in terms of what businesses are failing at repeatedly (which in turn means their marketing is failing). Here they are:

Lack of investment in your CMS/CRM/ESP:  Not sure about those three-letter acronyms? If you want ROI from your marketing, you’ll need to invest in thinking long and hard about them.

A strong content management system (CMS) for your website, built in a mobile-first environment, is the backbone of marketing. It is what it is. Skimping or skipping on this part will cripple your business. Likewise, not expecting to nurture, segment and track leads, prospects and customers over time will cause any future initiatives to come up short.  If your business isn’t to a point to invest in a CRM, a good email service platform (ESP) – and the content that will go into it – must be laid out.

Investment is as much about time as it is money. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to do a lot…but it must be crafted with care. It must be maintained, tested and re-tested over time.

Not really knowing your target market: This goes beyond what industry sector your prospects are in, or who your competitors are. What do you REALLY know about your target market? Demographics, psychographics, pain points, buying signals…you have to live and breath your prospects.

A key element here is failing to use basic BI to your advantage. Using lookalike audiences from key customer lists, engaging in programmatic ad buying to find other similar buyers and purchasing lists to augment key sectors are all ways to use people who already buy to find MORE people that will buy.

Like we said, accepting that there’s more to know about your best prospects and then diving into that head first can solve a lot of “marketing problems”.

Failing to have a REAL unique selling point: It’s amazing how many companies survive just being in the market, without a real leg to stand on. They may have history. Many say “our customer service is the best!” Others, unfortunately, try to constantly shuffle to maintain a status as the lowest price option (pro tip: once larger, smarter orgs with scale decide they can operate with volume at a lower price…the “price leader” businesses don’t exist much longer).

If you can’t convey what your business does BEST and why it matters to your prospects, there’s trouble. This has to happen first (and it must be real).

Marketing solves marketing problems. Marketing does not solve “bad companies”. At least not for long. It can mask problems, but not solve them. And a big, big problem for many business leaders we speak with is the lack of a clear USP.  Make sure you have one – or are working towards one – before expecting marketing to stop failing you.

Over reliance on one channel: Some business leaders can struggle with the concept of diminishing returns. This is especially prevalent in the paid search space. If $20k/m yields a 2.5X ROAS, why doesn’t $40k do the same? The answer lies in limited search volume, the need for expanded (less profitable) targeting…and not maximizing the value of that channel with OTHER channels.It’s no secret that BING can add about 15% of the overall volume of Google. That’s an easy pairing. But pairing both of those with 3rd party display vendors for custom retargeting, as well as Facebook/LinkedIn across the full funnel, and you have real lift. And it’s scalable. (Don’t even get us started on YouTube pre and mid-roll as post-search custom audiences for key markets…suffice to say it rocks).

This doesn’t even take into effect the value of broadcast (TV/Radio) on digital initiatives, or direct mail, or text campaigns. Multi-channel marketing gets results that no single channel can. And any one single channel is only going to do so much, regardless of how much cash is thrown at it.

Poor analytics/attribution: Data is everywhere. It’s application, however, can fall short for many business leaders. Marketing fails when data fails. And data ALWAYS fails when it isn’t used. Failure to track and report on events and KPI’s causes blindness. Simple as that.

Even if things are being tracked, using old attribution models skews otherwise valuable data. Last touch models are so 2002. Expecting marketing to work after one impression falls in this same boat.

We spoke with a fortune 1,000 company recently that was still seeing reports that had nothing more than vanity metrics. Total traffic. Bounce Rate. Pages Per Session. BLAH. What’s the point of seeing reports if you can’t measure it AND take action on it? This is foundational to even know what’s working and what’s failing.

Inadequate budget: For those that are using multiple channels and trying to create a real customer journey, one of the biggest problems is funding each channel adequately (or, knowing what the right amount is). Not an easy solve.

When even one channel is under-funded, the whole process can slow. If several channels are in this same boat, the process can do more than slow, it can outright fail. Not knowing if a spend will “make a dent” but doing it anyway is just as bad as underfunding. It’s throwing good money after bad.

Having the right people in place to research, test and ultimately KNOW what the right budget mix is to create sustainable (even scalable) results is important.

Too many B an C players: This ties right in with the point above. The right people just know. They’ve done it, they’re still doing it, and they get it. They keep you from making bad decisions. But if your budget is tight, chances are your salaries are too. And when salaries are tight, you get B and C level talent. Good people, eager learners, people you want for the long term…just not enough “know how” to get things done right now.

Or, the other end of the spectrum, you have “furniture”. Employees that came with the business and aren’t going anywhere. Maybe their sills have aged or they aren’t really that into the evolution of digital and online marketing. Either way, too many of these employees are big reasons why your marketing is failing. Most top talent doesn’t start out in-house. And, unfortunately, smaller companies tend to lose talented employees to bigger competitors or other opportunities as their skills emerge. Most businesses – even mid-sized firms – usually can’t replace a budding rock star with an equally talented next hire.

In short, if your marketing is failing and you’re looking for solutions, start with the list above. And, if you need help with items on this list…give us a call. We’re the perfect blend of agency chops and in-house dedicated support you need to sustain growth (and stop the marketing fail bus).

Author Jason Keeler

Jason is a Digital Strategist and Digital Marketing Consultant. He's spent more than a decade working in Ad Agencies on businesses ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies like General Electric and U.S. Bancorp.

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